lifestyle · Misc · Uncategorized

Christmas Traditions Around Europe

Happy Blogmas guys, it’s day five and I’m on a roll.

Myles’s mum is German and I’ve been asking him for ages if she incorporates any German Christmas traditions into their big day, as it will be my first Christmas with the family. The only thing he mentioned was that they start celebrating a lot earlier and their family Christmas is actually on Christmas Eve. This got me thinking about Christmas Traditions around Europe and I thought I’d do a little research and tell you what I found.

German Christmas

Many Germans travel to spend the late afternoon and evening with family members on Christmas Eve. Later in the evening, many families open their Christmas presents that were placed under the Christmas tree. A traditional German Christmas Eve meal consists of carp, potato salad, boiled potatoes, cucumber salad and lemon slices – sounds delish! Here’s a list of other German traditions:

  • Christmas celebrations generally start earlier in Germany on St Nicholas Day (6 December)
  • Children leave shoes outside of their front door, which Father Christmas – or Nikolaus, as they call him – will leave presents in if they have been good
  • If they’ve been naughty, his servant Knecht Ruprecht will leave twigs for them!
  • A meal is eaten on Christmas Eve, which won’t contain any meat
  • Children open their presents on 24 December
  • Meat can be eaten in a feast on Christmas Day

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I love the idea of the children leaving their shoes outside for Santa – how adorable! The more I read cute things like this, the more traditions I’ll be picking up and saving for our own children. Will definitely have to ask the mother in law how to pronouce Knecht Ruprecht and whether or not she did this as a child.

Poland

In Poland, families traditionally gather for a meal on Christmas Eve, which is known as Wigilia. They will start eating when they see the first star in the night sky – how sweet. The meal usually has 12 courses, which will traditionally include carp, a kind of fish. Similar to the German tradition! Some other Polish traditions include:

  • The family sharing a special bread wafer called “Oplatek”, which symbolises forgiveness – It looks like paper!
  • The grown-ups will give presents to each other on Wigilia, but children might receive presents earlier in the month, on Sw Mikolaj – St Nicholas Day (6 December)

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Aw, I don’t know if I like the idea of children receiving their present before Christmas eve, that’s what makes it magical here in the UK. Just knowing Santa will visit in the night and waking up Christmas morning to a stack of prezzies is the best feeling as a child.

Netherlands

In the Netherlands, Christmas celebrations start early similar to Poland and Germany. Santa Claus is known as Sinterklaas, he arrives by boat on the last Saturday in November! Very different! Sinterklaas doesn’t live at the North Pole like Father Christmas though, for those in the Netherlands, he comes from Spain!

  • There is a rumour that if children have been naughty, they will be taken back to Spain on the boat!
  • He travels across the Netherlands dressed in red bishops robes
  • He also doesn’t ride in a sleigh like Father Christmas is seen to do in the UK, instead, he travels on a white horse called Amerigo
  • When he arrives, children leave a shoe out for him with a carrot or hay for his horse Amerigo
  • Children in the Netherlands dress up for the arrival of Sinterklaas
  • Children usually get their presents on the evening of 5 December, which is known as Sinterklaas Eve

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Oh my gosh, I love that he comes on a boat! I love the word Sinterklaas as well!

Spain

Christmas starts on 8 December in Spain with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. On 22 December, there is a big lottery draw called El Gordo, which is covered on the television and on radio, where lots of people win money. How cool!

  • Children may be given some presents on Christmas Day, but traditionally they are opened on 6 January – my friend Natalia lives in Russia and she opens hers on this date, apparently it is the orthodox christmas
  • Children read out the numbers in the 2015 Christmas lottery in Spain, called El Gordo
  • Like in Poland, the main Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve, called la Nochebuena – fancy!
  • On 28 December, Spain has their equivalent of April Fools’ Day, called Holy Innocents’ Day, when people play jokes on each other
  • Presents are exchanged on 6 January, which is also known as Epiphany

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I’m not loving the spanish Christmas traditions, the whole opening presents early thing puts me right off. However, I love that they celebrate Holy Innocents Day – what a fun idea! The whole lottery thing is also lovely, especially as many people don’t have a lot of money around Christmas time.

Finland

Again, Christmas Eve is a big celebration in Finland, while Christmas Day is quieter and spent relaxing at home with family – I don’t blame them.

  • In a city called Turku, a special ceremony happens, which many people watch on television or listen to on the radio
  • At the ceremony, the beginning of the Christmas peace period is announced, which lasts from midday on Christmas Eve for 20 days
  • Traditionally, people will eat special rice porridge and have plum fruit juice for breakfast on Christmas Eve – There is a tradition to hide almonds in the porridge and whoever finds them will have a lucky year ahead of them
  • The Christmas peace period in Finland has been announced from the balcony of the Brinkkala building in Turku since 1886
  • They may also visit a sauna to relax during the day, before the big celebrations in the evening
  • Father Christmas is known as Joulupukki, which means “Christmas Goat”. Because of this, people dress up in goat masks to deliver presents.

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CHRISTMAS GOAT! Oh dear, this made me laugh way too much, I love a lot of things about Finland, but Santa being known as the Christmas goat is not for me. I like the almonds in porridge idea – maybe just because I love a good bowl of porridge and almonds are my fave.

Sweden

In Sweden, there is a special celebration on St Lucia Day, which is the 13 December. It isn’t completely clear where the tradition of St Lucia came from, as there’s a few stories that could have mixed together. One story says that St Lucia was young Christian girl who was killed in the 4th Century because of what she believed in. Swedish people mark this with many Lucia processions, led by a girl in a white dress with a crown of candles.

  • Children open their presents on Christmas Eve
  • The night before Christmas Eve, they are expected to leave a bowl of porridge out for Tomten – their name for Father Christmas – so that he will leave presents for them
  • Swedish people also have their main meal on Christmas Eve – This tends to be a big buffet called Julbord, which people are encouraged to visit several times to eat lots of food! – Now that’s what I’m talking about! Myles would love this!

I like the idea of a Swedish Christmas, it sounds very hygge! Maybe thats the porridge and candles? Can’t beat a buffet either! I actually did something very very similar to St.Lucia Day Celebrations with school! I love how they all look like little innocent angels.

Norway

Norwegian children look out for two creatures at Christmas… not reindeer either! The first is a creature like a goat called Julebukk, who is a present-carrying gnome. Then there is Jul Nisse, who guards farm animals and plays tricks on children if they don’t leave porridge out for him.

  • Norway donates a Christmas tree to the UK every single year, it stands proudly in Trafalgar Square in London. They do this to say thank you for helping Norway during World War II and the tradition has continued to this day.
  • Children in Norway leave out porridge for Jul Nisse, a bit like kids in the UK might leave a mince pie for Father Christmas

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I love that porridge is a huge part of Christmas for a lot of European countries, for the UK it is just a healthy breakfast option! The gnome that is like goat is adorable!! I love this idea.

Italy

Epiphany (6 January) is marked in Italy when children will receive a stocking of sweets if they’ve been good or a stocking full of coal if they haven’t. This is brought by the Italian Christmas witch, who is called La Befana. Some say she accompanied the Wise Men on their way to baby Jesus on Epiphany. She is said to be old, ugly and wears bad clothes, because she is a symbol for the old year which has ended.

  • A bit like people in the UK might leave a carrot for Rudolph and a mince pie for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve, some families will leave a glass of wine and some food for La Befana.
  • Lunch on Christmas Day is the most important meal.

A witch… at Christmas? No Italy, just no. It’s too scary for me to incorporate that into my Christmases, sorry!

Iceland

Children in Iceland have to wait until the Christmas Eve meal is finished before they are allowed to open their presents. Traditionally, the main dish of the meal is called Hangikjot, which is a leg of roast lamb.

  • They actually have 13 Father Christmases, called Yule Lads! (alright laaaaads?) – These mischievous characters are said to live in the mountains and visit towns one by one in the 13 days leading up to Christmas – that’s sweet!
  • Children leave shoes out for the Yule lads, who will leave presents in them if they’ve been good, or rotten potatoes if they’ve been bad – very similar to German Santa and his trusty sidekick, Knecht Ruprecht
  • There is a tradition that says everyone must receive a new piece of clothing for Christmas – If they don’t, they might be eaten by a giant Christmas cat who belongs to the Yule lads’ mum called Grýla!

Sorry did someone say giant Christmas Cat? See you in Iceland everyone! How adorable is an Icelandic Christmas? This is probably one of my favourites! I really want to go to Iceland as it is – now I just want to spend my whole Christmas there.

Greece

In many places in Greece, Easter is celebrated more than Christmas is. Obviously, Christmas is still important!

  • Children go from house to house on Christmas Eve, playing music and singing carols in return for treats to eat
  • Before Christmas, fresh basil is wrapped around a wooden cross, which is used to sprinkle water around the house to keep away mischievous goblins called Killantzaroi
  • Some people might also keep a fire lit which they think will stop the goblins causing chaos!
  • Presents are usually given on 1 January

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I love that so many European Christmas Traditions involve goblins and elves and giant Christmas cats – (sorry I can’t get over that one!). It really shows that wherever you spend your festive holidays in Europe, you’ll still be part of some sort of magic! I’ve loved writing this post and finding out all that goes on in the world in December. I might have to do another of these about a different continent.

What did you guys think? Do you live in any of these countries and take part in these traditions? Do you have any traditions to add? Which Christmas Tradition is your fave? – so many questions!

Leave your comments below!

Love Charlie x

3 thoughts on “Christmas Traditions Around Europe

  1. I absolutely love German christmas traditions, we used to go to Germany every year for Christmas when I was younger and my dad’s colleague has a German wife so we are always hearing about their children’s German christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

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